Knight Foundation’s Miami program director Matt Haggman hosts Venture for America Miami fellows in 2017.
How Venture For America Plans to Recruit More Young Talent to Work in Miami
By Yamile Nesrala
June 15, 2017
Venture for America strengthens its presence in South Florida with a new Miami-based director of community partnerships Yamile Nesrala. Read on to learn more about her and Venture for America’s mission to help catalyze Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by connecting local startups with top-notch talent.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic with a Cuban mother and a second-generation Dominican father, I believed in the power of entrepreneurship to change lives and communities before I even had a word for it. My father is what Venture for America founder Andrew Yang might call an “unsexy” entrepreneur. He didn’t figure out a way to hail a cab on a smartphone or refinance mortgages with a few clicks on a keyboard. But over the past 30-odd years (aka my lifetime), he built a plastics company that employs more than 300 people and is one of the top three in its space in the Dominican Republic. That company changed my family’s life; it has also contributed, in a small way, to the strong economic growth enjoyed by the Dominican Republic over the past several years.
Though I trained as a lawyer and had a brief stint in consulting, I’ve spent most of my professional life working with startups and high-growth companies—first as a program manager at Endeavor, a global organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets, and later as a marketing and partnerships manager at CommonBond, a New York-based financial technology startup. When I first joined my husband in Miami this past October, I knew I wanted to contribute to what I see as a fundamental transformation taking hold here: Popularly regarded as a great vacation spot thanks to its beautiful beaches and thriving nightlife, Miami is fast becoming a hub for entrepreneurs across a range of industries including tech, hospitality, food and beverage, and health care.
Cue Venture for America, a nonprofit that places recent college graduates on two-year fellowships at promising startup companies in U.S. cities with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems. The idea is simple: Startups in emerging cities such as Miami have a more difficult time recruiting the talented early hires they need to thrive and grow compared to, say, companies in San Francisco or New York, and young grads have no systemized means for finding or vetting startup opportunities. Venture for America levels the playing field by matching early-stage companies with highly vetted talent eager to work for them and make an impact. It provides intensive training to fellows in the skills necessary to succeed at startups and high-growth companies, as well as the mentorship, networks and resources they need to potentially found their own ventures down the line. The organization hopes that they will put down roots in their cities and contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem that is key to job growth and economic development.
Venture for America’s efforts in Miami have been supported by Knight Foundation with more than $360,000 since 2014. It has placed around 10 fellows each year in local startups such as Nearpod, Open English, Roam, and Ironhack. As the new director of community partnerships, I am Venture for America’s first Miami hire, and my primary focus will be to increase the number of high-growth company partners and lure a higher number of fellows to Miami. For 2017, our goal is to bring 15 to 20 new fellows to South Florida startups. I also hope to create greater alumni retention and involvement in the community, for example, by broadening our current fellows’ exposure to all the exciting things happening in Miami’s startup scene and facilitating the connections and resources they need to start their own ventures here. The broader mission is to generate a virtuous cycle of job creation in Miami; research shows that for every one person an innovation-oriented company hires, five new jobs quickly follow in the wider community. Finally, I hope to attract more South Florida donors to achieve program sustainability and ensure that Venture for America’s presence continues to strengthen in Miami.
I’m thrilled to join Venture for America and work towards a mission I’ve believed in since I was a little girl: the power of entrepreneurship to fuel economic development and revitalize communities. If you’re interested in being a fellow or company partner in Miami or otherwise contributing to our efforts, please get in touch.